Man, so this has been one crazy week and Heavenly Father has definitely helped me to stay calm and not overwhelmed. But first of all I did get all of those pictures and those were really fun to look at. It is interesting to see how everybody has grown since I left. It still feels like I have only been gone for a couple months, but it is a lot longer now. And that is okay that it hasn't been the normal friday letters, last week was so crazy and I wasn't able to get my letter to you until wednesday, so no big deal. But I am glad that you guys had so much fun at the reunion and also at girls camp this last week. Haha when you said that it was the highlight, or lowlight, I was almost expecting something to have gone wrong. When you said you started doing the worm, in my mind I was anticipating for something terrible to happen, like you kicking one of the young woman right in the face (a lot like dwight does at pam and jim's wedding coming dancing down the rows). But I am really glad that everything went well and I really enjoyed picturing that whole scene in my mind. I kinda of envy the way that you were able to just able to go for it, holding nothing back. I have a really hard time not being somewhat reserved in those situations haha. For example, Elder Stratford is district leader now and he loves to do these elaborate things. This last district meeting he had me help him set up the chairs in the cultural hall like a giant fortress and then he dressed up in cardboard armor. He wanted me to run into the other room to grab the district and yell "Hey there is this crazy guy from new york, we need to attack him and grab a hymn book!!!!) But it ended up being a half-hearted suggestion of saying (Hey, there is this guy and we need to go get him...) I felt bad that I couldn't put my whole heart into, so it was fun to hear your story dad about girls camp. Also that was fun to hear about that place you went fishing. I am really looking forward to when we can spend some days going out to fish and just enjoy nature. I really miss the mountains and streams and stuff. Bayou's and seeing for miles is fun, but it is not quite home.
I have to apologize if my letter is kind of disjointed, I came down with this strange cold and I am feeling a lot better, but I am still half-out of it. So if I say anything strange or things don't make sense that might be why haha. And yeah maybe just one or two of each of those asthma things, that way I can have a reserve just in case. What do you think? It might be nice just to have anyway. Man haha I am really struggling. I am still using that meditation and breathing technique and I can feel for emma, there have been times where I am at the height of stress and you just really don't want to do it haha but once you try it really calms you down. I think that happens for two reasons, one because the breathing and focusing calms your body down and two because you believe it will help you. I think once you associate that exercise with a sense of calmness, everytime you do it that is what you will start to feel. I could be right, or I could just be loopy right now. Anyways it does help and I would love to have some more techniques. I hope that Emma and Taylor do well with the school starting soon and I did really enjoy mrs. Pierces class. School is starting for all of the kids down here today and it is weird to think that the summer has already gone by. Time really is flying.
Like I said, this week was pretty crazy. Elder Stratford became district leader and he has been pretty overwhelmed. We have been driving a lot, we went on exchanges with the zone leaders, we are trying to help the new missionaries here and he is trying to prepare for district meetings and stuff. He has done a really good job with it, but I can tell that he is pretty stressed out. You asked how our day to day interactions go and I mean they are pretty good. I wouldn't say we are pea's in a pod, but I do think we are both trying are best and we are unified through the Savior. We get on each others' nerves sometimes, but we don't let that interfere with the work or our friendship. It is tough sometimes, but I think that will be with any companionship and unity doesn't come from things being really smooth, but working effectively through the rough patches.. I really enjoy being his companion and I think that is because I have learned a lot from him and learned a lot with him.
We have really focused on trying to get B. and E. ready and prepared for baptism this week. We have devoted a lot of time, energy and resources to help them out, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Just as a premise, neither B. or E. were baptized this last saturday, but B's baptism will be this saturday at 3. We met with both of them about 3 times this last week and that was a miracle within itself, getting them rides and balancing schedules. Heavenly Father definitely had his hand in things, because they just fell into place. We were able to finish teaching them all of the lessons and that was a lot of fun, because that was the first time that I have gone through them all. I was glad teaching them to B. and E., cause they really knew most of it already and we were just kinda brushing up on it, so it was pretty easy. We taught all the commandments: Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, Tithing etc...We went to teach the last part of the commandments to them on Thursday and so we went to pick up E. We were there a tad early, so we asked if we could meet his family. It turns out that his mom isn't too happy with E. coming to church (and that is a really complicated situation within itself.) and pulled the plug on his baptism. Although it is sad that his progression has been halted, it might be a blessing in disguise because his mom does want us to continue teaching him and his two younger brothers. So maybe this is the way it is supposed to work out. E. also showed a lot of maturity throughout the whole situation and mention that he might need to wait until he is 18. He is really prepared and that just shows me that he is still committed to his decision to be baptized and he believes strongly enough in it that he will wait. That is pretty cool. Also not only do he and his little brothers know the bible very well, but they also know Hebrew.. We will continue to work with him and just let things settle. But while Elder Stratford and Brother Kennedy, the young men's Pres. who came with us to the lesson, were talking with E's Mom, I got to spend that time talking with B. and getting to know him better. He is a really good kid and he is just trying to do his best. He is super nice and understands really deeply the plain and simple truths of the Gospel. We were able to laugh at a couple similiar things that we have done in our lives and discuss what we learned from them (me throwing a rock through the window haha). I also got to ask him the Baptismal interview questions to prepare him for his interview. That was really cool, because I essentially got to hear him bear his testimony on how he has learned this gospel to be true and how it has influenced his life in a big way. I have tried a couple times to type out the experience and none of the explanations were quite accurate, but simply talking to him and seeing the change in his life that night was one of the strongest times that I have felt the spirit. I am so glad to be a member of this church and so grateful to have the opportunity to devote my time to share this gospel. I know that B. would have accepted the gospel in his life at some point, he was ready to accept it, I am just grateful that Heavenly Father choose me to be one of the people to bring it to him. I am grateful for a lot of things right now haha. B. was interviewed on friday and he is good to go, he prayed about it and he felt strongly that he wanted to postpone it til this saturday so his mom could attend. It is cool to see and hear him talk about how excited he is to be baptized and that he just can't wait to be a member of this church.
That whole experience made me remember my little mission motto I had before I came out: Love and Listen. I realized partly that that is something that I really want to work on and become better at, but also was able to see how the spirit works miracles when you do love and listen.
The New Orleans stake has also issued out a challenge to the members to read the Book of Mormon in 60 days. This is in preparation for the Book of Mormon play coming to New Orleans. I started this challenge yesterday and also took the idea of one of the Bishopric members, that while you are reading, to mark all of the times that it mentions Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ. I have read to first 25 pages and my testimony of the Book of Mormon has grown a lot. As we read the Book of Mormon we are promised that we can learn and draw close to Christ. It also says that as we "draw nigh unto God, he will draw nigh unto [us]." I am experiencing that as I read. I also took a moment to flip through those pages I read and as I saw all the red I was able to reflect on all the blessings that he has given me. I really am blessed and I want to thank you guys for being the biggest blessing in my life. I love you guys a lot and you give me a lot of "strenk" Thank you for your prayers and support, this poor guy needs it. Good luck this week with School, whenever late summer honors is, working on the house in canby and everything else too! Lub you.
Prayers and Thoughts always,
Elder Devin Soper
PS sorry my brain is out of it, I hope it all makes sense...
Picture is of Me and the Tabors (We will visit them when we come down after my mission.)